To put it simplistically: morally and spiritually, abortion represents death. At the very least it represents death of a possibility of new, innocent life; a rare and sacred characteristic in American society. In my 20's I did not struggle at all with the question of abortion: it was wrong and whomever participated in the act was participating in murder. But as I meet more and more people, as I am changed by their stories and their lives, I find it harder and harder to take such a definitive stance on the issue. Abortion, like religion, is a deeply personal part of a person's life. It is a deeply personal choice. It is a deeply emotional aspect of life.
And so, in order to eradicate dissonance within myself, I've begun to explain my position in this way: I am personally pro-life, and politically pro-choice. I don't believe that my faith should dictate the options available to women who find themselves in a position I've never been. To do so is to suppose that every other woman in the world thinks like me, reacts like me, has had the benefits of my cultural background and family life, has my religious beliefs, and believes that life begins at conception.
To believe this is to believe a myth, to shelter myself from the world, and to limit my availability to others - my neighbors, my friends. It's to limit the potential for life changing interaction and the ability to grow in my own life.
I find myself in the middle, looking to the right and seeing my family and friends feeling superior and put upon and I look to the left seeing my family and friends feeling superior and put upon. I look to the left and to the right and I see absolutely no willingness to come together to talk about our differences in a healthy way. And I would go so far as to say that in my experience, my friends and family who come from a religious background, many aren't capable of that kind of discussion.
I dislike generalizations, but because we are talking about "pro-life" and "pro-choice," I will talk about this in reference to the most conservative and the most liberal people in my life. Certainly this logic does not apply to everyone I know. When a person pours their life into their faith instead of pouring their faith into their life, when a person needs hard and fast answers that are based on faith, there is no room for questions. People in my life whom I would deem "lefties" seem to always be open to the possibility of.... They seem more willing to philosophize and question. They see their faith as a something that cannot necessarily be defined in absolute terms; instead they see it as a prism, the colors changing depending on the experience at hand. They see God from many different angles and perspectives.
My friends and family who are more "right wing" seem to have a steadfastness in their faith that doesn't allow for contemplation or discussion. I can't tell you the number of times I have tried in the past to have a discussion on a passage of the bible or on spirituality and I've been shut down with a response that sounds like this: the bible says "this," it means "this" because "this person" says so and we don't need to discuss it further.
When there is no room for questions, there is no room for discussion.
So to my conservative friends and family I would beg them to approach this topic from a philosophical view. I would ask them to consider how a person who is kind, patient, loving, generous, could find themselves in a position of being pro-choice. Because that is a reality.
To my liberal friends I would ask them to come to the table respecting a person's faith as something intrinsic to their being. To try to consider how a person who is kind, patient, loving and generous can live from a perspective of absolutes. Because that is a reality.
The reality is that each of us lives with a measure of dissonance.
I was a conservative Christian who voted conservatively and fought conservatively. I used to be on that side of the spectrum. I used to view things as being extremely "either or." Then I met people who were raised differently from me, who never heard of the things I believed in, who had experienced a different life than I had. I realized slowly that to be "either or" really has no merit and is not productive, and rarely takes into consideration the individual standing in front of me. No one gets saved - physically or spiritually - in an "either or" situation.
I don't know that creating new definitions would help. They only way this becomes a less polarizing issue is for everyone to come together and discuss and be open to each other. Not open to each others beliefs or political positions, but to each other. Just be open. Hear people's stories. Be compassionate. Hear, listen, understand from the heart. For both sides.
This conversation needs to happen with the understanding upfront that no one is wanting the other side to compromise anything. Not their beliefs, not their stances. The first step is the discussion, the hearing, the being in each others shoes.
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